MANILA, Philippines – How will the outcome of the US presidential election affect the Philippines, a former American colony and one of Washington’s key allies in Asia?
The US Embassy in Manila hosted on Wednesday, October 24 its 2nd Kapihan sa Embahada to inform the public about the upcoming vote, with incumbent President Barack Obama up against Gov Mitt Romney.
Democrats Abroad representative John Boyd and Republicans Abroad speaker Doyle Stout participated in a debate on the election, which recent polls suggest will be very tight.
US Ambassador Harry Thomas underscored the importance of the Fil-Am vote in the United States, where about 4 million Filipinos make up more than 1% of the population and are being courted by both parties.
“Filipinos are the second largest Asian American group in the US. That is tremendous potential influence on our democracy,” he said.
Many absentee US citizens — most of them dual Filipino citizens — have already voted from the Philippines, where one of the main concerns is what will the next American president do about the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector.
President Obama has said he wants to stop more jobs from going overseas, but Romney, who became rich as businessman before getting into politics, defends outsourcing. (Read: Philippine BPOs court Democrats’, Republicans’ goodwill)
“Mr. Romney has done a lot of outsourcing, and he has stated publicly that he is in favor of doing it. We make money, employ other people, because in order to do it right, you have to source inside of the country and outside of the country,” noted Stout.
The Republicans Abroad representative added that many Americans have found jobs in call centers in the Philippines, while his Democrat opponent in the debate hesitated and finally declined to comment.
Boyd did raise the issue of the peace process in Mindanao, which the US government fully supports, and congratulated the Philippines for having signed the Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a first step towards ending more than four decades of conflict in Mindanao.
“President Obama is very much supportive of efforts here to support to help find peace (…) The United States has stepped up military coordination and activities, I think in the future they will continue to do so,” he said.
China: action or containment?
The debaters were also asked about where the candidates will stand on the matter of China and its territorial claims in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) if they are elected.
Hoyt, who worked in China for almost a decade as a computer software businessman, warned voters not to underestimate Beijing’s power or resolve.
“I know China. I know what they have, and what their military has. They are formidable. They are something, and they are not going to sit back and wait,” he stressed.
The Republican Party speaker pushed for a tougher policy against the Asian superpower, which has been called a “bully” for its attitude toward other countries that claim parts of the Spratly Islands or the South China Sea.
“We have to have in this part of the world, unanimously, among the countries, that we will not let them bully us, we must control what belongs to us and we better be prepared to put up a flag and say, we’ll do something about it,” he said.
Hoyt added that no matter what happens in the election, “the US government will be behind the Philippines 100% in all those areas.”
On the same issue, Boyd was more cautious, but promised Obama and the Democrats will stand by Manila.
“The United States is going to take a uniform position, but this goes back to the position on how you treat China. You have to treat them with respect, you have to give them time to get their new government in place, and you don’t want to unnecessarily upset them,” he said.
Washington “will stand by the Philippines and work to find a peaceful solution,” Boyd insisted.
Whatever the outcome of the US election, Democrats and Republicans insisted the next president will continue to be a friend of the Philippines. – Rappler.com